Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday rejected calls for a truce to prevent a “bloodbath” in Syria’s Idlib province, reported BBC. Leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Iran’s Capital Tehran to discuss the fate of the province, which is under the control of rebel forces.
Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power, are preparing to launch a final assault on the rebels, Reuters reported. Putin said that Russia would continue its fight against “terrorists” in the northern province.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the country was looking forward to the summit “as a means of clarifying the military situation in Idlib”, Reuters reported.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said militants in Idlib were “systematically destroying infrastructure” in an attempt to undercut the offensive, TASS news agency reported. She accused the rebels of arresting civil activists, blocking their exit from the province through humanitarian corridors and kidnapping villagers.
In a possible reference to Iran and Turkey, Zakharova said: “We expect that those partners, who do influence these events, will contribute to attaining this goal by helping to separate the opposition units, which are ready to join the political settlement process, from terrorists.”
Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a top aide to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Thursday that three “fundamental principles” should be observed, Tehran Times reported. “First, terrorists should be cleaned out in this region,” he said. “The second principle is that Idlib is part of Syria’s territory, and like other regions in the country, it should be ruled by the central government. The third principle, which is very important for Iran, is the humanitarian side of the issue due to presence of two to three million Syrians in this region.”
On Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey hopes to find a “permanent solution” to the Syrian conflict. Ankara has said that an all-out assault on the province will cause a “humanitarian disaster” that will lead to a fresh wave of refugees into Turkey, Reuters reported. It has urged Moscow to stop the Syrian government forces from launching a ground offensive.
The three countries have held two summits on Syria before. Last year, Turkey agreed with Russia and Iran to designate Idlib a “de-escalation zone”.